Member Spotlight: Greg Dell - Young Maryland Farmer Unafraid of Experimentation
21 Sep 2323 min 47 sec

About 90 miles from XtremeAg’s Temple Rhodes, you’ll find 29-year-old farmer and XA member Greg Dell. Greg didn’t want to go to college, but his dad wouldn’t allow him back on the farm until he’d worked somewhere else for three years. He explains the growth and learning experience being employed by a large-scale farming operation allowed him. Greg discusses with Damian his aspiration to be better but not necessarily bigger, the value of experimentation, and the farm's profitable expansion into bird seed production. 

Presented by Loveland Products

00:00 So we're talking about grain sorghum production, but in Maryland, what? Yep, that's right. That, 00:05 and a whole bunch of other questions are gonna be addressed with, uh, extreme Ag Member Spotlight on Greg Dell. Greg Dell, 00:12 a member that's who we're talking to about Maryland agriculture and some cool things he's doing that you might actually take a lesson from this edition of 00:19 Extreme Ag Cutting the Curve. Welcome to Extreme Ag Cutting the Curve podcast, where we cut your learning curve with insights you can apply immediately to your 00:28 farming operation. This episode is presented by Loveland products. When it comes to crop inputs, 00:34 you need products that are field proven to deliver both results and value. For more than 50 years, 00:40 Loveland products has been providing farmers with high performance value-driven product solutions designed to maximize productivity on every acre. 00:49 Visit loveland to see how their innovative products can help you farm more profitably. And now here's your host, Damien Mason. Hey 00:58 There. Welcome to another fantastic episode of Extreme Ag Cutting the curve. It's be your host Damien Mason. I've got Greg Dell, 01:03 who is an extreme Ag member hanging out with me. He is in, uh, Westminster, Maryland. Yeah, Maryland. Well, 01:10 you know about Maryland because Temple Roads an extreme ag guy is a Maryland farmer. In fact, I just saw last month, Greg, 01:17 while I was at Temple Roads Field Day, I saw him the month before that at an event in South Dakota. I keep seeing this guy. I like talking to him. 01:24 He's got some cool stuff to share. And I said, let's come on, record an episode and share that with all these people. 01:29 What's your farming operation look like? Mr. Dell. We grow corn, soybeans like your everyday American, but we grow sorghum and then we, uh, 01:39 buy and sell green at our elevator that we have here. Um, which was started in the early eighties. We, 01:47 my grandfather and his brother bought it from another set of brothers that were, had started the elevator and they had all moved on. 01:56 They had actually kind of gotten themselves in a tight spot and we took over and things have blossomed from there. 02:04 Okay. So how involved are you with the elevator? Uh, with the elevator. I'm obviously here for any kind of maintenance or 02:13 fixes or leaks or all that kind of stuff, but my dad is who takes care of the marketing, uh, you know, keeping the grains and all that stuff. Uh, I'm, 02:25 I'm more of the field guy, kind of stay out in the, in the field and making decisions out there for the farming operation. You're a young guy. You're not even 30 yet, you're 29 years old. So tell me, 02:36 take me from, uh, take me from, okay, growing up you were around the farm. You were around in a green elevator. Did you go to college? 02:42 No, sir. So You, did you come back when you were 18? You got outta high school and said, I'm ready to go to work, or, what'd you do? 02:48 So that was kind of part of the deal, I guess. I broke old. I was the older, oldest in my generation. Um, and I did not wanna go to college, 02:58 but my dad, uh, kind of made it a rule that we go somewhere, we either work somewhere or go to college. And, uh, 03:07 so I went and worked for a local farmer's about 12 miles away, a larger farmer, and worked for those, those guys for three years. Uh, I learned a lot. 03:17 It was a great experience. I learned a lot about farming, but I also learned about a lot about being an employee and, 03:22 and working for someone else. And that was huge. So, uh, that's kind of the, the start. 03:27 And then I came home and it's going from there. Yeah, it's tremendously valuable. Uh, that growth, that growth phase. You know, the difference between age 18 and 21 is only three years, 03:39 but if you do it right, it's about 10 years of growth and maturity that happens there. So that's, that's kind of what you're talking about. Um, so there's the grain elevator, 03:48 and you'd said previously that there's not as many grain elevators out in your part of the world there, like in the Midwest. 03:53 So you've got a bunch of loyal customers, but it is this, it is still a very conventional operation. They bring in their stuff, 03:59 you put out the bid, you buy their stuff, you process it, clean it, mix it, blend it, usually take the crummy stuff and blend it with the good stuff. 04:06 So you don't have a problem, put it on a train pretty much, right? Yeah, that, well, we, we don't really, uh, in this area because of our, 04:14 we have an abundance for use, so we don't, we don't rare load trains. Our, our delivery is to an end user, um, which is, um, 04:23 great because we have a strong basis for all of our crops. Um, they, I shouldn't say all go to end users. Some of our, 04:31 a lot of our soybeans go to an export, uh, facility, but pretty much everything else goes to an end user and, and it gets ground to flower feed or, you know, something 04:41 Like that. Yeah. So because you, you know, you're near or two population now, by the way. We say that all the time. I mean, I'm in Indiana, 04:47 Fort Wayne's 300,000 person town. It's 20 miles up the road, or it's 90 miles to Indianapolis, which is a one and a half million. 04:55 So the pretending that out here in the Midwest we're just like, totally is, this ain't western Nebraska, right? This isn't, this isn't hinterlands of, uh, 05:03 uh, of the, you know, the western plains, but you are even closer to population than we are. And more importantly, you're closer to lots more people on the east coast. 05:13 So you say our stuff goes a lot of times to end users. That's for human consumption food in many cases. Yeah. And, and human consumption and, and, and food and, uh, 05:23 animal consumption. There's a lot of chickens. Uh, I'm sure Temples mentioned a lot of chickens in his area, which temple's about 90 miles from me. Uh, we, 05:35 we feed a lot of those chickens as well, broilers layers. Uh, there's also a lot of cattle, a lot of dairy cattle still in the area. 05:43 The number of farms is dwindling, but the size of the operations are growing and, and they need feed. Yeah. So, uh, 05:51 on some of your purchases that you're making from your customer base, is it food grade, you know, food grade, you know, 05:58 crop food grade commodities that you, you know, is there different stuff? Are you, you know, versus normal number two, yellow corn? 06:05 Are you bringing in stuff that's for corn chips or something like this? Well, we don't, we don't have, we used to have that market, uh, 06:10 that in particular there was a corn chip, uh, corn flour facility not far, but they, uh, have since closed up. 06:17 But there is actually a high, uh, value market for dog food. Yeah. Which they, they have very stringent, uh, requirements as far as, uh, quality. 06:32 So if, if we can hold good corn and, and get good corn in, you know, we can, we can capitalize on that market as well. 06:40 But there's also those chicken feed facilities that don't quite, uh, have as stringent quality, uh, requirements. 06:48 Well, uh, barley doesn't a lot of barley go to pet food. And are you in that trade at all? 06:55 So barley and wheat both actually. Uh, and we do buy barley. We don't grow any ourselves. We, we haven't grown any for several years, 07:02 but we do buy a decent amount and we get a lot of barley in for, uh, you know, for that. We sell it to those markets as well. 07:09 Understood. So all, I want to hear all about the grain sorghum because that's an interesting thing, but before we do that, so what a few things that are different. 'cause remember, 07:18 farm people like to know what's similar, what's different, what's different. Where you are is you're closer to human population. You've got, as you said, 07:25 there's, there's less crop production in mass right where you are. So most of your stuff doesn't hop on a train and go away. It stays there for, 07:35 for consumption, human or livestock consumption. Um, yields are, I mean, your yields are as good as they are. I mean, you have, temple has some really good yields, so your ground is fine, right? 07:47 Yeah. Well, we, we have a lot of varying soil. We have rolling hills, like where Kelly Garrett's from, um, you know, uh, 07:54 they're a little more cut up by trees and such things. But, uh, we have a lot of variant in a very short, uh, distance. 08:03 We have extremely heavy red clay soils to the north on the Pennsylvania line that we farm. And then you get to our home base, uh, 08:13 here in central Maryland, and we have very sandy loam soils. So we get the whole spread of it, and that's the, 08:21 the best part of out of our area because we can still capitalize, it seems like, anyway, whether we have a lot of rain or a little bit of rain. 08:30 Yeah. Um, that's kind of the gist. Got it. And how many total acres are farmed with the Dell farming operation? Uh, we farm about 2,500 of Varun, 08:39 and then probably another six or 700 of custom work that we do all the work for. Got it. Then you've got the grain mill. So how did this whole, uh, 08:47 grain sorghum thing come up? Because remember, grain sorghum is supposed to be raised, so there's six and a half million acres of grain sorghum in the United, 08:55 the United States. I, I, I know I talked to a grain sorghum guy, and it's in Kansas, in the Pan Hill of Texas and a little bit in Oklahoma. 09:02 Basically, it's where you're supposed to grow these, this stuff. Why are you fooling with it up there in Maryland? 09:08 So, grain sorghum was posed us probably six or seven years ago. We were looking for, we were looking for something different. Uh, 09:16 we had kind of stopped growing small grains, um, and it was posed to us as a crop that deer don't like to eat. Mm-hmm. Well, it goes along with the heavy population. We also have a lot of, uh, 09:28 wood laden areas, uh, development, things like that. And because of that, we have a lot of deer pressure in certain farm, pretty much every farm anymore, but certain farm are worse than others. 09:41 So anyhow, we, uh, look into this green sorghum thing, and sure enough, we have almost no deer pressure as far as, uh, 09:53 eating when it comes to, uh, planting the screen soil. What's interesting is there's, there's people that are not ag people and it's like, oh, 10:00 we love seeing the deer. And like, yeah, you know, and I hunt deer and all that, but there's, 10:04 there's a lot of non comprehension among the suburban types of the amount of damage. You're talking about like grazing, like having a, 10:14 a flock of sheep out there grazing. I mean, they beat the hell out of, uh, the corn yields and edges around the farm where I was raised, 10:21 because you've got a ton of woods and wildlife property around there, and so this becomes the feeding ground. So you lose about, you know, 10:28 you lose an acre or so. Yeah. And there was a, in one farm in particular that we've grown sorghum just about every year since we've done it, um, 10:37 there's a 15 acre field on this farm and about six or seven acres of it, 10:42 and when it's in corn will be a zero when you're harvesting because of, of the deer. 10:48 So one thing you need, uh, Greg, if you're gonna have any commodity production, you need the infrastructure. You know, you can't have a, 10:53 you can't have a cotton gin with no cotton acres. You can't have cotton acres with no cotton gin. Where does the grain sorghum go? Where's the infrastructure? Because that's the thing, uh, that you need. 11:03 And you, you told me about this, and I think it's pretty cool how you came up with this idea. Besides the deer pressure, there's another reason you're growing sorghum. 11:11 Well, we have the, we have the facilities to, we have the facilities to store and store separate. Um, because our system is older, we have a lot of smaller bins, 11:20 but there's a huge market for bird seed, um, in just to the north of us. It's not super far away. Uh, we have three facilities that we work with, and they, 11:34 they, uh, take it, you know, we, we seem to grow some pretty sorghum. They really, in like the sorghum that we send them, 11:43 obviously we don't grow enough to supply their demand. So they get, uh, sorghum in, like you're talking about, that comes in on rail and they, 11:52 they prefer us to bring 'em sorghum. It's closer, it's a little cheaper, and, uh, it's a great market for us. 11:59 Yeah. So bird seed is where your stuff goes. So, uh, the acres that, of the 2,500 that you own and farm on your, on the Dell acres, 12:07 how many of 'em are gonna be in grain sorghum in 2023? This year it's 200. Yeah. And you're gonna grow that next year increase 12:15 At least? Yeah, yeah. Yeah. We kind of mark it into the cropping system because it's very corn. Um, and we'll, we'll, uh, 12:23 jump it back and forth between corn and soybeans on some farm or sorghum and soybeans on some farms, uh, just to keep a rotation. But, uh, 12:30 it works out very well. Yeah. You cut on for a second, but your point was it's very similar to corn, uh, in terms of the nutrients and the, and, and it's cropping in general, 12:41 and by the way, you plant it just like corn, right? We plant it in 30 inch rows. Uh, we plant it, it's a little thicker population, um, but it's a, the seed's cheaper. Uh, so we plant, 12:53 we've been planting around 70, 60 to 70,000 seeds per acre. And you know, like I said, the seed's a little cheaper so that the, the, 13:01 the price still ends up being cheaper per acre planting costs than corn. Got it. Um, I want to, uh, I want to get back to, 13:11 uh, some more things about your business, because I think it's kind of cool. Um, temple always talks a little about, you know, the differences out there, but I, 13:18 I wanna find out how, how real that is. Before I do, I want to ask you dear listener about your fertility. Uh, you work hard at keeping your fer yield fertility levels up, 13:28 but if fertility is unavailable or underutilized, you are wasting money. Loveland products, industry leading bio catalyst products, 13:35 including Titan XE extract and accomplish max release fertility for healthy high yielding crops, 13:42 talking about you getting fertility value outta the fertility that's already there out of residue, out of the soil, and making it available to your crops, 13:51 visit loveland to increase your results. Okay. Is it really that different in Maryland? Temple's out here all the time? Oh, 14:00 you just wouldn't even know, you couldn't even do what you do. Temples likes to carry on about stuff and it's just, it is so different. 14:07 Is it really all that different, Greg? It, it really is. I would, it's different everywhere. But Maryland has, has its own challenges. Uh, on our side of the bay, 14:18 we are rising into the Appalachian Mountains. We farm with a lot of rocks. Uh, I'll never forget one of the first time temples over here, 14:27 we were looking through a soybean field. We dug up a soybean plant, and the, the plant, it's the roots of the plant, 14:32 had several decent sized rocks intertwined. And it was something that he's not even used to. Um, uh, which to that point, you know, it's different everywhere. 14:43 He's only 90 miles away, but he's on the other side of the bridge. Uh, we, we have, uh, relatively low CECs and, and, uh, 14:52 different management practice because of our Chesapeake Bay area that temple always talks about. And the, 14:58 Well now are you as close, are you as regulated on bay issues? Meaning it's all about the runoff and it is, you know, and, and the thing is, 15:08 we as agriculture people should probably admit, we probably did have some problems 30, 40 years ago and we did harm the Bay. I mean, there, there's some, there's some re we're, we're, 15:18 we're not saying e p a come and bang on us, but we're also saying, yeah, we did some best stuff wrong. We've certainly corrected it. 15:24 Are you as heavily regulated as, as temples? Yeah, we, we are under the same nutrient management guidelines because we are in the state of Maryland. That is, that's a statewide thing. And I agree with you. I mean, I, 15:36 I know just in my short time doing this thing, we have learned a tremendous about, about fertilizer utility in general, um, and how to apply it and do a better job at it. And I, 15:47 I equate a lot of that starting with the nutrient management program. So I think it's neat. You just segued right into my next topic, but you said, 15:57 you know, you're a 29 year old guy, you're forward thinking, you worked for the neighbor farming, 16:00 large scale farming operation for three years. You learned some things there about business, about working for other people. It's about farming in general. 16:06 You brought it back now to the family agri business. So answer me this, one of the things you also did, 16:12 you joined Extreme Ag as a member paying member. What has been one thing that you have gleaned or one practice that you have changed or something that you're like, 16:24 because of what I've done with extreme ag, seen, learned, listened to, seen Damien talking to the farmers, seen the guys in the fields, 16:31 been to one of the meetings, what, gimme a couple, one or two big takeaways that you've gotten from Xa and how it's helped you? Uh, 16:39 probably the number one thing that I would say specifically from extreme ag, and there probably is two, and I'll touch on a second one, 16:47 but the number one thing is pay attention to your crop. Your crop is gonna be totally different than the next guy's crop. Even rate down the street, pay attention to your crop, 16:58 pay attention to your soils, pay attention to all that stuff because it, you, even, like my family, we've been farming a long time. Well, 17:05 we've been farming different than the neighbor, and our soil's gonna be different, and our management practice is different. So I've done more of, 17:14 not necessarily not listening to the guys like Kelly and Temple when Chad and Matt and all those guys. Not, it's not that I don't listen to 'em, 17:21 but instead of saying, oh, well they're doing this, I need to do that. Maybe take a nugget from what they're saying and try to apply it to what 17:30 I'm doing instead of just doing it. Yeah, that's good too. Number two, not to cut you off, but the number two thing, 17:36 and I I should definitely touch on this, is a hundred percent meet people, talk to people just like talking with you. I mean we've, I've, 17:45 I've gained a lot of valuable relationships. Yeah, Yeah. There, there's something to that. You know, it can be a fairly insular and insulating business. Um, 17:57 and, and in, in many cases in agriculture, the people right down the road from you resent you or are hostile or you know, are mad at you because you farm 80 acres that they thought they were supposed to 18:07 get or some, some silly stuff like that. So talking to people, um, and the networking aspect of this also, it feeds your head. Uh, 18:16 you're absolutely, you, you're, you're thinking about stuff that Lee Lubers talked about in a video that you're thinking, oh crap, I, I gotta tell you what, I never thought of that. So I, 18:25 I think that's the good part there. Uh, alright, you're, you're a young guy. Uh, you're, you're assertive. You've got, uh, you, you know, you go to events, 18:33 you're trying to learn, uh, stagnation is slow death. Take me, uh, business plans. No. Uh, do you have to have it all figured out? No, 18:40 but just take me a year or five or 10 down the road and tell me where things are gonna go for Greg Dell. 18:47 So I hope to, I hope to continue to grow and continue to do better with what we have a lot of guys, and I think even he, I know even, 18:58 even in my own mentality, always wanted to farm more, far more, far more acres, things like that. Well, 19:04 I've definitely made a u-turn in that I want to do a better job with what we have, better job with the acres we have, 19:12 pay more attention to even the rented acres. I mean, you know, a lot of guys consider rented acres, throwaway acres or, or things like that. 19:19 And I, I don't, I don't agree with that fully because there's always more potential there. It's just those things and, and I, I believe that I'm on that right path. 19:30 I think I have a lot of good mentors that are taking me there and, and I just, I guess business plan mentality. My, 19:38 I hope to do better with what just do better in general with the acres and ground that we cover now. 19:44 So you're gonna grow some yes, but you wanna make sure you're not, uh, and I agree with you. That's been, that's been a thing. 19:50 It's just a mindset thing. I'm going big, big, big, big. Okay, you're doing a C minus, you're getting a C minus grade on on your aspiration. 19:59 Uh, when it's all focused on big, why not get an A grade and, uh, progress a little, a little more at the right pace, right? 20:07 Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Just keep, keep the, keep the corn up instead of, you know, plateauing and, and grow. Growing acres is not everything in my opinion. 20:19 One tip, one idea, one practice, one habit that you fully recommend since we are in the business of, uh, of sharing ideas and information and insights. One practice idea, innovation, 20:33 uh, habit. Something that you do that you think that others should consider. Uh, 20:41 Probably it could be personal, it could be personal or professional, whatever you, I'm giving you free reign here, buddy. 20:46 Well, wow, that's a, that's a big one. Uh, don't go to sleep with your boots on. Yeah, right. No, uh, I mean a business wise, I guess ag wise, uh, agro, um, 21:00 agronomy wise, the biggest thing that I've changed in our operation in is try things. Don't be afraid to try stuff. I mean, as you and I talked before, 21:10 we go on a line, we're harvesting some soybeans right now. We plan group two maturity in the beginning of April, 21:17 and that is way outta line for this area. But we can continue to try and different things to, to just see what happens. You're not gonna know. You can speculate all you want, 21:28 but you don't know until you absolutely do it. Yeah, I like that. And so, yeah, you're, you went with some really aggressively early stuff. Is the bene is the, 21:36 was the reason for trying it that you space out your season. What was the rea what was the reason you told yourself that you wanted to do 21:42 this? This, yeah. So we, as I talked about, we're, we're on average, we harvest a little more than 3000 acres a year. 21:50 It's usually between 31 to 3,300. And we do that with one machine. And my thought was when I first came home, 21:58 here we are planting all these soybeans and all this corn that are very close maturity and everything's ready at the same time. Uhhuh well, let's, 22:06 let's spread that out. Let's, let's do a little bit down the line. I, I don't care if I start in beginning of September and don't until the beginning 22:15 of December, but at least we're not crammed and everything's ready at the same time. And that, and that ends up costing you bushels, 22:21 but that's a whole nother agronomic. Uh, Yeah, right. Well, the idea is you, you're experimenting with it to see if it, if it puts a little more space on your time and, and, uh, see, then it, 22:31 it frees up, uh, more man hours and, and, uh, all that sort of thing. That's cool. I like it. So his name's Greg Dell. If people wanna find you, 22:39 where do they find you at? He's an extreme Ag member. Yeah, I'm extreme Ag member. Uh, I have a Facebook, I'm not on a whole hell of a lot. I'm on Snapchat a lot. Um, I got a, 22:51 I have Snapchat a lot with, got a lot of followings on there, but, uh, you know, Twitter and Facebook and Snapchat, 22:59 I'm on there a lot and I like to be at a lot of events. So You'll find him at one of our extreme Ag Field days or Commodity Classic or 23:08 wherever you might see the extreme Ag folks moving forward. So next time, it's been a cool member spotlight. Thanks for being on Mr. Dell. 23:14 Thank you, sir. Until next time. This is Extreme Eggs Cutting the curve. That's a wrap for this episode of Extreme Eggs Cutting the Curve, 23:22 but there is plenty more available by visiting Extreme For over 50 years, 23:28 farmers have turned to the proven lineup of crop inputs offered by Loveland products, from seed treatments, plant nutrition, adjuvant, 23:35 and crop protection products. Loveland has the complete lineup to keep your farming operation productive, and most importantly, profitable. Check out loveland to learn more.